Dec. 27 - Hungarian scientists discover ancient fossils of a new giant lizard species that lived in freshwater. A reconstruction of the 'mosasaur' has gone on display in the Hungarian Natural History Museum as the palaeontologists published their findings. Joel Flynn reports.
STORY: This is Pannoniasaurus inexpectatus. It measured up to 13 feet as an adult and could dislocate its jaw to swallow any prey it could get its mouth around -- dead or alive. These are the fossilised remains of a group of Mosasaurs -- an ancient species lizard -- the first known mosasauroid to live in freshwater ever discovered. Evidence of these creatures that lived around 85 million years ago has only recently been found. Laszlo Makadi is one of the palaeontologists involved in the discovery. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HUNGARIAN PALAEONTOLOGIST LASZLO MAKADI SAYING: "We have found specimens ranging from 70 centimetres to 6 meters but probably the most abundant size was around 3 or 4 meters. This is one main point, one main evidence of these mosasaurs living here in this freshwater environment because you see... actually you can see some very young juveniles, you can see a bit more adults and then you can see quite large adults living here which means there was a complete population living in these environments instead of just for example adults swimming up in the rivers to mate or for some other reasons." Makadi and his colleagues discovered fossils at a waste dump of a coal mining operation in Iharkut, in western Hungary. They unearthed thousands of fossils and pieced back together several Mosasaurs. The palaeontologists say they are learning something new about their findings everyday. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HUNGARIAN PALAEONTOLOGIST LASZLO MAKADI SAYING: "These are those vertebrae which are very very abundant at the locality, actually those are the most frequent remains of this mosasaur. It's quite characteristic because it's very primitive in its characters. You can see that the body of the vertebrae is quite V-shaped and it has this precondylar constriction, I mean the condyle is wider than the centrum itself, which is unique among mosasaurs, only Pannoniasaurus has this character." These findings could help further understanding of these particular carnivorous mosasaurs. And quite possibly inspire a new generation of palaeontologists as well.